How Do You Choose The Best Solution; They’re All Excellent?

Very rarely do people have a bad idea…..in their opinion. I know this, as I once ran an ideation process for a large company. When an idea was rejected it was not uncommon for the originator to seek me out to tell me that the panel had just not understood why their idea was worthy of progression.

In reality, however some ideas are better than others, particularly when you are looking for a solution to a specific problem. The solution-centric approach gives the screeners the opportunity to consider criteria e.g. Cost, ease of implementation, relevance to problem, size of potential returns etc.

Several tools and techniques exist to help screen and rate options. These range from formal matrix-type approaches such as Pugh Matrix and QFD (Quality Function Deployment), to less formal, but arguably as effective, techniques such as subjectively ranking options against each other with regards to given criteria such as ease of implementation, cost or impact on problem. Be it Ease vs Impact sorting, Idea Spectrum, Pugh Matrix or QFD, a key element often neglected is the discussion held as to why a potential solution scored the way it did.

Often the score is recorded and is used to justify the selection of a lead option however it is the debate and discussion that occurred during the process which may well be the true value of the exercise. During these discussions of the strengths and weakness of particular options the group’s understanding was expanded, vital points were made, critical assumptions recognized and consensus was gained.

The final scores themselves are rendered almost irrelevant in comparison. Yet often these discussions are never recorded. How often is the question “why did option B score a 9 with regards to cost?” or similar asked some way down the road from a decision only to be met with agonized expressions as the team try to recall the rationale?

A walk around a company’s project management department will find several examples of impressive QFDs, flipchart sheets laden with sticky-notes and complex weighted matrices all informing of the right option to select, however, somewhat like an abstract art piece in a gallery it may not be the finished work per se which holds the true value but the understanding of what the artists were thinking when they produced it.